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What is shockwave?

Adobe Shockwave is a file format designed to support advanced multimedia applications and content delivery. Shockwave content is created in Adobe Director, and while it is often conflated or confused with Adobe Flash, is far more powerful. Adobe acquired the Shockwave product when it picked up Macromedia.

Macromedia first developed Shockwave for integration with the legendary Netscape browser. Macromedia legends Sarah Allen, Ken Day, John Newlin and Harry Chesley were the team of developers that developed the first system. Then as it generally is now, the main purpose for designing Shockwave a platform for online movies and animation.

Even in the early days, one big driver behind the app was game development. Because Shockwave was born of and exists in the world of the web, it is light and also lends its graphics capabilities in the field of online applications where graphics can add to the application experience. Today, Adobe’s Shockwave Player is installed on over 450 million internet-enabled desktops around the world.

The Shockwave player experience is all about pure media on the web. With 3D games and entertainment, online interactive applications, product demonstrations and more, Adobe Shockwave player offers users exciting content that is produced in Adobe’s Shockwave creation product known as Adobe Director. You may not realize it, but Adobe Shockwave Player can be found to be bundled in with other software (and available to download separately), lending to a robust distribution strategy that reaches out to users on many different channels. Note that this is not Flash we’re talking about, that’s actually a different project which we’ll allude to in just a bit.

The point is, if your website requires support for 3D, advanced multimedia, or training and gaming applications (or you develop custom content and applications of these varieties for your site), you may want to consider choosing a hosting provider who supports Adobe Shockwave. Created using Adobe Director, Shockwave is perfect for website owners looking to provide interactive or multimedia content in a secure, feature-rich, and compiled (as opposed to open-source) format. Shockwave is somewhat ‘thicker’ than Flash, but it does offer a consistent, more stable experience for those applications that use it.

Shockwave, not Flash

Often confused with its “little brother,” Adobe Flash, Shockwave is far less ubiquitous on the Web. Compared to Flash, Shockwave files load more slowly and are not as readily modified (as Shockwave is built using Director and then compiled, as opposed to Flash, which are created with the application of the same name, open-source and relatively easy to change). However, Shockwave has a far richer feature set than Flash, including hardware-accelerated 3D rendering, support for multiple network protocols and languages, and even the ability to incorporate content created in Flash. Plus, with a wide range of plug-ins (known as “Xtras), Shockwave's functionality can be extended even further.

While Flash is ideal for streaming content, vector-based images and simple animations, Shockwave allows for truly interactive content to be incorporated into your site, and can create fully 3D environments for games, training applications, and media players.

While Shockwave has this history of focusing on web animations and online movies, the mission has shifted somewhat in recent years. Today, while Shockwave maintains its ability to present video and animation, it is far more concentrated in the area of game development and within online applications that have requirements that call for rich, graphical environments. Examples of that include any number of rendering applications, graphing, charts and calculations. Quite obviously , a graphic-focused application is a natural to fulfill these kinds of applications demands.

While Director itself costs a pretty penny (with the base version coming in at around $1,000), the Shockwave player itself is a free download from Adobe. And because it's cross-platform compatible and installed in the user's browser, it shouldn't add anything to your monthly hosting budget. For now, Adobe Director is not a part of Adobe's Creative Cloud, nor is there any indication that it ever will be.

One final caveat: though you'll most likely build your Shockwave content on your own system rather than your the server itself, it's always a good idea to make sure you have all the details about storing and serving applications you create before adding them to your Web server.

Shockwave Hosting Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are some good reasons to use Shockwave?

    The main reason to use Adobe Shockwave is if you have interactive content or animation on your website that was developed using Adobe Director. Shockwave was initially built with the intention to make viewing movies and animation online, but today has evolved into being more commonly used in online learning and gaming. If your website has any of these components included in its core functions, then you probably have good reason to host Shockwave on your server.

  • Are there any reasons not to use Shockwave?

    Your server configuration is actually a good reason to use (or not use) Shockwave. If you are self-hosting your video, game or learning application on a Windows server, then you shouldn't have any issues presenting a Shockwave application if your hosting provider supports this type of media format. However, if you are using a Linux based server, you may run into some complications, as there is not currently support for Shockwave in Linux environments.

  • What are the alternatives to Shockwave?

    A commonly compared alternative to Shockwave (on the plugin side, at least) is Microsoft Silverlight. The biggest difference between these two multimedia delivery platforms, however, is that only Shockwave is still under active development. If you are choosing between Silverlight and Shockwave as a content delivery method for your multimedia application in a current environment, then Shockwave is the clear cut favorite of these two. A Mac-based alternative to Shockwave may be Unity Web Player. Depending on the environment you plan on using to present your online media, Blitz3D (for Linux and other open source use) and SIO2 engine (for mobile devices) are also potential alternatives to Shockwave.

  • Do I have to know how to program to use Shockwave?

    For server configuration, yes you will probably need some programming knowledge. There are two specific MIME types (Multi-Purpose Internet Mail Extensions) that you will need to configure to properly relay the type of embed file to the web browser. If you have limited experience with making modifications to a server, you may require some expert assistance with programming.

  • Do I need to be concerned about installation?

    If you are inexperienced with MIME configuration on a server, then yes, installing Shockwave on your server could be considered "concerning". There are a variety of MIME mapping configurations based on the Shockwave software you are using and whether or not you are incorporating Flash. Some server types allow you to MIME map all of the associated Shockwave file extensions on one line, others require a unique line of code for each file extension. Consult with your hosting provider for the type of MIME mapping your server will need before attempting to install Shockwave on your server.

  • Are there any additional specific hosting recommendations?

    Outside of the basics of uploading the required Shockwave files to your server, the MIME mapping requirements are really the only unique requirement to hosting this application on a server. However, depending on your application (movie, game, e-learning, etc.), you may want to be sure you have some bandwidth flexibility to keep your costs consistent and your uptime constant. Using dedicated bandwidth might be not be enough bandwidth to handle traffic surges, and fixed burstable bandwidth may lead to you overpaying for your bandwidth. Instead, research your hosting providers bandwidth payment options and consider using 95th percentile billing.

  • What does self-hosted mean? I don’t have to run a server myself, do I?

    Self-hosted websites do not require YOU to personally own a server and manage it to host your site. Instead, self-hosted simply means that hosting is not provided directly by the development team that created Shockwave. In order to use a self-hosted multimedia script like Shockwave, you will need to contract a hosting provider before building your website.

  • Can I host the Shockwave multimedia script on a shared hosting plan?

    To answer this question, yes you probably can. However, many hosting providers are cautious to provide the root access to the server on their shared hosting blocks. In order to make Shockwave work properly on a shared hosting environment, you will need to make sure the MIME mapping mentioned above is correctly configured on your server. Check with your hosting provider to determine if you can get the type of server access you need to properly configure Shockwave before you get into a commitment that limits your website functionality. If you can't access the root files of your server, the alternative is for you to use Shockwave on a dedicated hosting platform.

  • Do I need managed hosting in order to use Shockwave as my multimedia script?

    The answer to this question depends on your answer to the question "how much responsibility are you willing to accept for the maintenance of your website?" The more complex your site becomes with widgets, plugins, multiple blogs and theme changes, the greater your need will be for professionally managed website hosting. Shared hosting often comes with some managed services included. If you have a dedicated hosting solution, however, managed services are likely required as part of your agreement. To be fair to Shockwave, this is the case with any self-hosted multimedia delivery script - not just Shockwave.

  • How does Shockwave compare to Silverlight as a multimedia script?

    If you are choosing between Silverlight and Shockwave as a content delivery method for your multimedia application in a current environment, then Shockwave is the clear cut favorite of these two. While Silverlight is still available for download and will be supported by Microsoft into the 2020's, they have discontinued further development of it as a content delivery method. Because of that, working with Shockwave will allow your site to continue to be relevant into the future and also provide you with a current platform that you can grow your application upon.

  • How does Shockwave compare to SIO2 Engine as a multimedia script?

    SIO2 Engine is a multimedia delivery application for 2D and 3D animation that also works for mobile devices. If you are developing an application that you want to scale to Apple and Android devices and don't have the resources to invest in a more expensive development software like Adobe Director and Shockwave, SIO2 Engine could be a great solution for your needs.

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